BA’s restructure puts marketing at the forefront of its business strategy

British Airways’ recent marketing restructure will put marketing at the centre of its strategy as it attempts to keep up with the emerging trend, which sees marketers partner with commercial teams as well as focus on the consumer.

BA announced yesterday (20 Jan) that it would split its marketing team with part of the team joining the commercial department and the other forming a new customer experience team, which focuses solely on the travel experience.

A BA spokeswoman told Marketing Week that the change is an effort to put the customer at the heart of everything they do. One part of the marketing team will reflect brand and customer proposition in the commercial department while driving profitability, as the other focuses on customer experience.

BA has put the former head of marketing, Abigail Comber, in a new head of customer position while they look for a new director of customer experience. Sara Dunham will be the new head of marketing, retail and direct and will be reporting to chief commercial officer, Andrew Crawley.

The move sees the brand follow a trend for big businesses putting customers at the core of their strategies. Scott McLean, COO for the Intelligent Marketing Institute, described the trend as a shift towards ‘customer centricity’.

McLean told Marketing Week that the focus for businesses has not always necessarily been the customer in the past, and the growth of customer centricity sees companies having to follow through with their plans to deliver value service for consumers.

“It is not surprising that marketers are taking the lead with this approach, as no one is better placed to understand how to build a customer centric business,” says McLean.

EasyJet has taken a similar approach in the past year. The brand’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, credited its recent turnaround to putting marketing at the centre of consumer business, while speaking at The Marketing Society’s annual conference in November (2014).

Relative Strength

BA’s decision to restructure the marketing team is interesting, as unlike EasyJet prior to its change, the airline has seen relative strength in both sales and brand perception in the past year.

Anton Dominique, chief marketing officer for the London School of Marketing, told Marketing Week that a common reason for brands to take a ‘collaborative’ approach, which divides the marketing team in the way BA has, is a result of a company not achieving its targets.

BA brand perception is strong in the UK, as shown by YouGov’s BrandIndex which measures the brands index score by looking at consumer perception of quality, value, reputation and satisfaction.

BA has a score of 38.7, coming first in a list of 26 airlines. The list includes other major airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Etihad Airways and EasyJet.

Financial results have also been positive, BA made a profit of € 607 million, compared to €477 million the previous year in its Q3 2014 results.

“The best time to make a change is when you are doing well, the airline industry is hyper competitive so a shift when [British Airways] is ahead of the game will only enforce their leadership position,” says McLean.

Matching up

A range of competitors have also taken a ‘customer centric’ approach, EasyJet and Ryanair are moving out of their traditionally ‘low-cost’ roles as their customer focus has led them to providing new services for business flyers.

Virgin Atlantic also launched the ‘Let if Fly’ campaign which focuses on premium service, that they hope aspirational consumers will be happy to pay more for.

While BA’s restructure aims to improve the customer experience, the brand is also developing its previous offerings. Previous campaigns, such as the brands’ ‘To Fly to Serve” campaign in 2011 also focused on high value customer service.